State Senator Malcolm Smith, who has been accused of trying to bribe his way onto the ballot to run for mayor, has seemingly lost interest in the job.
“Right now I want to continue to do what I’m doing as state senator and try to do the best I can for the constituents that I’m still representing,” the embattled Queens lawmaker said when asked about his mayoral ambitions in a recent interview with CBS6 Albany.
It is a question few in the New York political establishment dare to ask publicly: is the seemingly endless string of indictments and arrests of elected officials a conspiracy against minorities in power?
But there was Queens State Sen. James Sanders Jr., bellowing in a theater with a preacher’s rhythm, more than implying last night that the recent arrests of black elected officials like Assemblyman Eric Stevenson, State Sen. Malcolm Smith and State Sen. John Sampson were not coincidental. Even State Sen. Shirley Huntley, who admitted to stealing funds earmarked for her district’s underprivileged children and was sentenced Thursday for her crimes, could have been linked to a conspiracy, Mr. Sanders said.
Ironically, Mr. Sanders defeated Ms. Huntley last year–after she was indicted–and took her seat in the State Senate.
Law & Order
The names caught up in ex-State Sen. Shirley Huntley’s wire-tapping efforts were revealed Wednesday afternoon, leaving elected officials and staffers scrambling to respond to news that they were most likely the subjects of ongoing federal investigations.
The U.S. Attorney’s office had revealed that eight of the nine individuals secretly recorded by Ms. Huntley in an effort to minimize her sentence on embezzlement charges “remain the subjects of ongoing criminal investigations.” And while some offices appeared to be prepared for the news, others seemed completely caught-off-guard. Others still have yet to comment.
The list includes a slew of Democratic lawmakers, including City Councilman Ruben Wills, State Sen. Eric Adams, who is running for Brooklyn borough president, Sen. Jose Peralta, who is running for Queens borough president, and Sen. John Sampson, who was arrested earlier this week on unrelated embezzlement charges.
Two weeks ago, Democratic State Sen. Malcolm Smith was arrested and charged with trying to bribe his way into the Republican mayoral primary, prompting cries for reform from both ends of the political spectrum. Today, Governor Andrew Cuomo rolled out a series of proposals that he hopes will address many of these concerns.
“You’ve heard the expression pay to play, this is pay to run,” Mr. Cuomo said at a press conference announcing the measures. “The allegations that the minor parties basically, on occasion, have used campaign contributions to determine who gets the line and it’s almost that the line goes to the highest bidder.”
State Sen. Malcolm Smith, arrested and charged last week as part of a wide-ranging bribery scandal, looks like he could have electoral troubles in addition to his legal woes. Jason Hilliard, a long-time staffer to Congressman Gregory Meeks, is actively mulling a challenge to Mr. Smith, a source close to Hilliard told Politicker.
While Mr. Hilliard declined to discuss his bid, the source said he had been considering the challenge even before last week’s indictment, as he wanted to “enact a more progressive agenda” than Mr. Smith had been advocating. The source addded that Mr. Hilliard “based [the] decision … to serve as a champion” on issues like the standard of living in southeastern Queens.
Governor Andrew Cuomo is not happy about the barrage of corruption charges hitting various New York lawmakers throughout the week, including State Senator Malcolm Smith, City Councilman Dan Halloran and Assemblyman Eric Stevenson. Accordingly, Mr. Cuomo released a statement this afternoon detailing his disgust.
“The allegations of public corruption by City and State officials revealed this week are appalling,” the governor declared.
Another Shoe Drops
Moments ago, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office announced yet another New York State elected official, Bronx Assemblyman Eric Stevenson, has been arrested and accused of taking bribes. Earlier this week, New York’s political world was rocked when corruption charges were leveled against State Senator Malcolm Smith and Councilman Dan Halloran. Mr. Stevenson’s charges will be formally unsealed at noon today.
“Stevenson is accused of taking bribes in exchange for official acts, which included drafting, proposing, and agreeing to enact legislation that would benefit the co-defendants’ businesses,” the release announcing the press conference declared. “Two of the other defendants are also charged in connection with their payment of a bribe to another Assemblyman, who was actually cooperating with the Government at the time. The charges include conspiracy to deprive New York State and its citizens of Eric Stevenson’s honest services, federal programs and Travel Act bribery conspiracy, federal programs bribery, and Travel Act bribery conspiracy.”
Mo' Money Mo' Problems
“That’s politics in New York,” the New York Post‘s cover blared in stark black-and-white ink this morning. “It’s all about the f–king money.”
The quote, allegedly made from Councilman Dan Halloran to a cooperating witness, was revealed yesterday as U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara unsealed charges not only against Mr. Halloran, but State Sen. Malcolm Smith and a small slew of other political figures in what Mr. Bharara called “a corridor of corruption stretching from Queens and the Bronx to Rockland County and all the way up to Albany itself.”
Specifically, Mr. Halloran is accused of “essentially quarterbacking” a scheme to secure Republican establishment support for Mr. Smith’s mayoral bid. Mr. Smith, a Democrat, would need the blessing of three of the five county Republican organizations to run on the GOP line, and he allegedly arranged for cash bribes in his attempt to do so. But, looking more broadly, the strange scandal also shines light on these county organizations and their few remaining powers in city politics.
Manhattan GOP Chair Dan Isaacs assured his supporters in an email today that he has nothing to do with the alleged political bribery scheme that has already led to six arrests across the state.
“Nonetheless, if anyone harbors concern that there is ‘another shoe to drop’ here in Manhattan, I want to take this opportunity to reassure you that there is not,” Mr. Isaacs wrote. “Anyone who knows me and has worked with me during my involvement with the Republican Party knows that I value personal integrity over all else.”
Democratic State Sen. Daniel Squadron called on his Democratic colleague, State Sen. Malcolm Smith, to resign after he was arrested this morning and accused of orchestrating bribery scheme to land himself in the Republican mayoral primary.
“The charges outlined in today’s complaint are simply shocking,” Mr. Squadron, who’s also a candidate for public advocate this year, said in a statement earlier today. “This is something that belongs in ‘House of Cards,’ not an election to decide who will run our city or any part of our government. Regardless of the outcome of the criminal charges filed against Senator Smith, he has lost the public trust — and he should resign.”